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Tax hike could have been worse - city

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 23/05) - A white-hot real estate market will make next year's budget an easier pill to swallow, according to Dave Devana, the city's director of corporate services.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Expected revenue:

  • $42.9 million ($16.6 million from property taxes)
  • Expenditures: $41.5 million
  • Capital projects: $11.3 million
  • Salaries and benefits: $14.9 million
  • New staff positions: 2.8 (182.4 total)

  • City Hall unveiled its draft budget for 2006 on Monday. It reports that the city expects $322,000 more in property tax dollars next year due to increased land sales.

    That, despite the imminent loss of revenue from Giant and Con Mines, which generated over $600,000 in property taxes this year, but will drop to $125,000 by 2008 due to closures.

    Devana said without the recent rise in property tax assessments - including the new federal building and more homes in the Niven Lake subdivision - ratepayers may have been staring down a four per cent tax hike as opposed to the 1.9 per cent increase they're facing now.

    Ratepayers saw a 1.8 per cent increase on their property tax bills last year - the first since 1999. A similar increase is expected next year.

    Devana expects the real estate market to slow down somewhat over the next couple of years, but by then the general fund will be stabilized and no tax increases will be necessary in 2008.

    "We just look at revenue growth and expenditure growth over the three-year period, and based on those two factors it looks like in 2008 we're not going to need an increase," said Devana.

    Residents also face a two per cent increase to their water bills next year. Devana said city officials proposed a five per cent increase two years ago, but city council shot it down.

    He said the city's growing population has made it difficult for the $4 million water and sewer fund to stay afloat at present funding levels.

    City council is also considering whether to contribute $122,500 to the community energy plan. That includes matching $40,000 with Natural Resources Canada to hire an energy co-ordinator.

    Devana said there are several items not included in next year's draft that council will have to consider.

    One is the construction of an indoor soccer fieldhouse, which needs to be completed for the 2008 Arctic Winter Games.

    Devana said the project will cost about $12 million to build, $5 million of which would come from the city, and $7 million from the federal Northern Strategy fund, if that's what council decides to do with it.

    Another item to ponder is whether the city should sink money into a curbside recycling program.

    "There's a cost attached to it, no doubt about it, and it's not in the budget," said Devana. "Council asked us to study it for 2006 but I know some councillors would like to move it forward."